GAMES NOTES: Kicking off the 2013 America East Tournament will be a matchup between the No. 7 seed New Hampshire Wildcats and the No. 2 seed Vermont Catamounts at SEFCU Arena on Saturday.
The Wildcats had a bit of success to wrap up the regular season as they won two of their last three games after losing four of five previously. Still the Wildcats were one of the lesser teams in the conference this season finishing 9-19 overall and 5-11 in league action. New Hampshire has also been one of the worst teams in the conference come tournament time with no league titles and a 9-30 record in the annual event.
Vermont on the other hand has been one of the more dominant programs in the America East during its history. The Catamounts own the second most league titles (five) including last season's. The Catamounts were in the hunt at the top of the standings this season with an 11-5 conference record but they lost out on the top seed to Stony Brook.
These two border rivals have met 137 times previously with Vermont dominating in the all-time series with 87 wins. That included a season sweep this year. The winner this time around will face the victor in the first round matchup between UMBC and Hartford.
New Hampshire grabbed a 79-74 win against another New England area rival, Maine, in the regular-season finale. Ferg Myrick edged himself even closer to the 1,000 career point mark with a team-best 27 points in the contest. It was the Wildcats' 3-point shooting that was most important as they outscored the Bears, 27-9, from long range.
Myrick (13.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) is one of three double-figure scorers on the roster for the Wildcats all of which shoot worse than 40 percent from the field. Patrick Konan (11.7 ppg) and Chandler Rhoads (11.2 ppg, 3.5 apg) are the other two members of that group. Chris Pelcher (9.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg) is the leading rebounder and has thus seen the bulk of his shots come from near the basket, where he connects on 53.4 percent of his shots. As a team the Wildcats were the third worst squad in the conference in terms on points scored (60.8 pg) while shooting less than 40 percent as a unit.
A 3-pointer at the buzzer from Hartford's Nate Sikma sank Vermont in a 61-58 decision in the regular-season finale. The Catamounts were the dominant team inside, outscoring the Hawks, 28-10, in the paint. However they were outscored 36-18 from beyond the arc.
Vermont punches its meal ticket on the defensive end of the floor. The Catamounts own the 23rd best scoring defense in the country (59 pg), while also ranking among the top 60 teams in the nation in opponent field-goal percentage (.403). On offense the Catamounts are a bit more understated as they score just 63.3 points per game, while shooting nearly 44 percent from the field. Clancy Rugg (11.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is the leading scorer on the roster with Sandro Carissimo (10.0 ppg) and Luke Apfeld (10.8 ppg) adding scoring depth. Brian Voelkel (6.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg) doesn't score in bunches but is vital on the glass, where he ranks second in the conference.
Vermont has made it a habit of just finding ways to win despite a lack of offensive firepower. The Catamounts' strong showings on defense should continue against a New Hampshire team that doesn't exactly light up the scoreboard.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Vermont 69, New Hampshire 59
03/09 10:45:33 ET
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